Scanway headquarters is in Wrocław, south-western Poland. The company was founded in 2016 by young talented engineers with strong technical background who graduated from the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. It is worth mentioning that although space related solutions are now the big part of company’s scope (Scanway Space), the company also provides innovative systems for ground-based industry (Scanway Industry). Those systems are, for example, machine vision based solutions for precise control of manufacturing process as well as quality control in various types of factories.
Some of the co-founders had previously gained experience by taking part in student DREAM (DRilling Experiment for Asteroid Mining) project and different such activities. DREAM project tested how the drilling process in microgravity – on sub-orbital rocket – looked like. Scanway’s team was responsible for the design of the vision system, observing the drilling process.
Between 2017 and 2020 Scanway led the project called ScanSAT. The aim of this project was to develop a telescope to be used in small CubeSat-type satellite that could gain high resolution imagery of Earth surface. As a result, the company successfully designed proprietary optical payload with highly advanced capabilities to be integrated with 6U and possibly even with 3U CubeSats. The telescope designed by Scanway’s engineers has been proven capable of acquiring images of the planet with the spatial resolution better than 4 m/px. It was possible to integrate it with any sensor, including hyperspectral or NIR.
The payload was designed as athermal structure which eliminates some significant problems with temperature amplitude. The platform on which company’s telescope would operate was also being prepared for integration with the laser telecommunication system. Confirming excellent performance of the product during the laboratory tests and bringing the system to high TRL level was among the crucial steps for Scanway to become a mature space technology designer and manufacturer. It is worth mentioning that the project included the design of the system and thorough tests, however, did not involve launching the system into orbit.
Mature player on the market
The year 2022 was pretty important for Scanway’s development. During that period company succeeded in developing six space related products within 2 product lines (SOP and SHS). The vital test of the company’s capabilities took place in November. That was the time when payload proved its quality as a part of so called SubOrbital Express 3 mission.
It happened on the 23rd of November when the suborbital rocket was launched from the Swedish spaceport Esrange. The rocket took its payload 250 km above the Earth. During the flight, the vision system designed by Scanway was able to record how the individual scientific instruments performed in the harsh space environment.
The mission has been a great success. “We can certainly say that the device we designed achieved 100% of the goals set for it” – commented Mikołaj Podgórski, one of Scanway’s executives.
The above mentioned task fitted very well with one of two main product lines that Scanway Space currently offers. This one is generally referred to as the Spacecraft Health Scanner and can be described as “an integrated system designed for spacecraft self-diagnostics”. Its role is to provide mission control engineers on the ground with the necessary information about the conditions, performance and operation of the spacecraft in orbit.
The system is fully customizable and can contain various types of sensors. Among the typical elements of such solution are cameras, temperature and radiation sensors. Data transmission module and communication hardware are also important parts of the system. The system uses external cameras that might be mounted on the boom for the clear vision of the spacecraft module. It may be provided with own power supply as well as communication subsystem in order to be able to perform independently, even in the case of the spacecraft malfunction. Moreover, it can work in orbit bringing the situational awareness about what’s going on around the satellite.
The second product line currently offered by Scanway for space domain is Scanway’s Optical Payload (SOP). The telescopes designed by the company are especially designed to be used in small units – micro- and even nanosatellites. They are customizable and modular constructions, featuring athermal design. This last feature means that constant movement between full sunlight and planet’s shadow while in orbit won’t do any harm to the sensitive optical payload.
The optical payload can be equipped with different types of spectrum band detectors (VIS, NIR, SWIR) and can be characterized by different imaging resolutions. The solution is always tailored for the exact needs of the particular customer. What is worth noticing is also the fact that it is possible to integrate the laser communication system into the optical path of the imaging sensor used in the satellite.
Connecting the dots
The newest, recently launched mission actually connects two main products lines of Scanway Space. It is called STAR VIBE and was launched to low Earth orbit by SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the beginning of January 2023. STAR stands for Small Telescope for Advanced Reconnaissance. This device is designed for Earth observation in visible spectrum. It is slightly longer than 20 cm, weighing just 1.2 kg. The telescope enables acquisition of planet’s surface images with the spatial resolution of 25 m/px. The sensor can at once image quite a large area measuring 102.4 x 76.8 km.
VIBE stands for Vision Inspection Boom Experiment. It is actually a vision system mounted on the boom, designed to be used for visual inspection of the satellite during its mission. It is a demonstrator of Scanway’s whole line of products – the above-mentioned Spacecraft Health Scanners (SHS). The advanced algorithms integrated in VIBE will be using artificial intelligence for constant processing of data acquired from different sensors aboard the spacecraft. Therefore, the device is able to detect malfunction or failure of the satellite without the need to downlink huge streams of data for on ground analysis. In general, the VIBE subsystem’s task is to monitor the condition and degradation of the satellite’s elements such as antennas or solar panels.
STAR VIBE is a CubeSat 6U satellite. It is orbiting the Earth on the Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) at the altitude of 530 km. The mission was prepared in cooperation with the partner – German Orbital Systems, who provided the nanosatellite platform.
Scanway plays also an important part in the Polish flagship satellite project EagleEye. The company has become a partner of Polish Space Research Centre as well as Creotech Instruments S.A. – the company responsible for providing the satellite platform.
EagleEye is going to be the largest Polish satellite ever sent to space, weighing about 50 kilograms. It is going to be placed into the 350 km SSO orbit. Scanway’s role is to deliver the optical payload for the spacecraft. It will be the telescope capable of observing in the visual light (VIS) as well as near infrared (NIR) parts of the spectrum. The sensor would be prepared for imaging with the maximum spatial resolution up to slightly more than 1 m/pix.
The telescope is designed using athermal structures and modern materials. The device itself will be scalable and ready for integration with other sensors, like a camera for SWIR (Shortwave Infrared) imaging. As it is stated by Scanway on company’s website: The project is being implemented in accordance with the Space 4.0 philosophy and ESA methodology, with the support of external experts. The launch of the satellite is scheduled for 2023. This is clearly going to be a milestone not only for the company, but also for the whole Polish space sector.
Scanway is also a member of a nationwide consortium building Polish nanosatellite constellation for Earth observation. The main end user of the product will be Polish military although the system is going to be dual use, also providing imagery for different ministries within the government.
The aim of this so called PIAST constellation project is creation of a precursor of a Polish satellite constellation for imaging reconnaissance at resolutions below 5 m per pixel. The key point of the project is to manufacture all major components in Poland, including – a high-resolution optical telescope. Scanway is responsible for providing the telescopes – optical payloads for two out of three planned satellites. The cameras need to be of small size, resistant for the harsh conditions in space.
The consortium for this particular task is pretty complex: Scanway, the Military University of Technology, Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Science, Lukasiewicz Institute of Aviation, Creotech Instruments S.A. and PCO S.A. This mission will clearly show the potential that Scanway Space has got in the field of building optics for Earth Observation systems, bringing considerable enhancement of orbital reconnaissance capabilities crucial for Poland’s security.
Ambitions for the future
Cooperation in Space 4.0 reality is something, that is applicable to basically every project. We know the value of working with competent partner – it always ends in satisfying product and results that can be implemented in different projects. Today’s world requires us to work with companies from all around the globe to get the best solutions for our clients – says Mikołaj Podgórski, Scanway COO.
Based on its extensive experience and ongoing projects, Scanway intends to build on its strong position in the European market, as well as globally. The company’s authorities see an opportunity in its flexibility and working in the spirit of new space.
Jędrzej Kowalewski, Scanway CEO: We see a great potential in supplying New Space in modular, flexible in terms of functionality optical instruments. Most of our customers do research in the fields of cost-optimized multi and hyperspectral cameras, not only of the EO but also for in orbit servicing. Our plans involve growth of the product portfolio and establishment of the biggest in CE space optoelectronics R&D centre. Those are direct responses for growing demand for our products and of course a big challenge for the whole Scanway company.